Fantastic is a biography like no other about a man like no other. The life of Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most extraordinary success stories of our time. An immigrant with a heavy accent from a village in Austria, he became the greatest bodybuilder in history, the number one movie star in the world, the Republican husband of a Kennedy Princess, and the...
Fantastic is a biography like no other about a man like no other. The life of Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most extraordinary success stories of our time. An immigrant with a heavy accent from a village in Austria, he became the greatest bodybuilder in history, the number one movie star in the world, the Republican husband of a Kennedy Princess, and the governor of the greatest of American states with a game plan that he hopes may bring him to the White House.
Fantastic is a lesson in how to succeed. It shows how and why this man of willful ambition and limitless drive achieved his unprecedented accomplishments.
Laurence Leamer has extensively interviewed both Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger's closest associates, including his elementary school friends in Austria, his mentors, bodybuilding competitors, lifelong friends, first serious girlfriend, lovers, his longtime publicist and agent, producers, directors, political friends and foes, many of whom have never before been interviewed.
In this groundbreaking biography, Leamer captures the public and private Schwarzenegger, who could change the face of politics in our country. What is most extraordinary is how much the life of this most famous of men was unknown and uncharted until Fantastic. Here is the poignant story of Schwarzenegger s traumatic relationship with his father and how his first mentor, a Jewish partisan in World War II, helped shape the youth. Here is the intimate story of Schwarzenegger's first great love and the five years the couple lived together. And here is the passionate account of Schwarzenegger's decade long affair with Maria Shriver and their marriage.
From Publishers Weekly
America's love affair with machine brutalism spills over into this somewhat smitten biography of its foremost icon. Leamer (The Kennedy Women) chronicles Schwarzenegger's progress from bodybuilder to action-movie megastar, then California governor, visiting along the way his romance with Kennedy scion Maria Shriver and feud with rival Hollywood muscle-head Sylvester Stallone. It's a tale of relentless self-promotion: Schwarzenegger's fanatical weight-lifting routines are nothing compared with his grueling publicity marathons, including 94 puff-piece interviews in one day for Last Action Hero. Leamer gives his subject a bombastically vain personality, then struggles to make it appealing. He celebrates Schwarzenegger's room-filling ebullience, his "emotional wisdom" and "agape." He discerns a "subtle, ironic distance" in Schwarzenegger's acting. And Leamer downplays Schwarzenegger's alleged habit of groping women, chalking it up to "signals" sent by women who secretly welcome his advances, a casual European attitude toward sex that is "frustrated and puzzled" by American "political correctness" and a fun-loving spirit that "moves toward whatever is most joyful and gives him pleasure." The author is less indulgent toward what he sees as Schwarzenegger's substance-free political campaigning and unwillingness to grapple with California's long-term budget crisis. His book is not fantastic, but it's well researched and moves along at a pleasantly robotic clip.
What can one say about the outsized, often outrageous Arnold Schwarzenegger--tank driver, bodybuilding champion, action-movie megastar, and now governor of California--that he has not already boasted about himself? Let me tell you (as Arnold--on a first-name basis with everyone--might say), he is one of the most successful acts in the history of promotion. However, veteran celebrity biographer Leamer has a lot to say here that Arnold might not necessarily approve of, from his savvy in thriving in the movie industry to allegations about his boorish behavior with women. Although Schwarzenegger granted Leamer an interview, this is not an authorized work. Nor is it a wrecking ball of dishing. Coming after decades of books (Pumping Iron, 1974), muscle-magazine cover stories, and tabloid fodder about the superstar, it sorts through the pulp and the fiction on a search for the real Arnold and largely finds him. Part of his myth is that of the self-made man; while that is true of Arnold's later days, in his early years, he benefited from crucial patrons drawn to his sunny-skies ebullience, none more so than Joe Weider, publisher of bodybuilding magazines and the impetus behind Arnold's move to Los Angeles in 1968. Covering Arnold's competitions, movies, marriage to Maria Shriver, and electoral victory in 2003, Leamer skillfully sails between the idolaters and the iconoclasts, heading toward the multitude of readers interested in Arnold's character and life.
Mel Foster's reading is excellent. He deftly handles this text, which tells the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his days in Austria to his success in Hollywood. His narration helps the work move quickly. Foster's vocal characterizations, especially his version of Arnold himself, are particularly good. The text tells the good, the bad, and the ugly about the current California governor, although there's more good than bad and ugly. The author has written several celebrity biographies, and this work is more about the rise of a celebrity than the election of a governor. There is much on his early life, which means that there are more details about bodybuilding than most would probably like. M.L.C.
Laurence Leamer has written a number of bestsellers, including The Kennedy Women, The Kennedy Men, and The Sons of Camelot. He lives in Washington D.C. and Palm Beach.